Through The Static

April 21, 2008

The U.S. Role in Haiti’s Food Riots

Filed under: Economics,World News — disciplepete @ 7:08 pm

If you’re following the current world food crisis issue as the mainstream media is covering it, you’re likely mostly hearing it attributed to rising energy prices, biofuel production, rising demand in China and India, and a maybe a couple of other factors. One thing that I haven’t seen the MSM touch on much is the role of trade liberalization in greatly exacerbating the crisis. This article from Counterpunch talks about that:

The New York Times lectured Haiti on April 18 that “Haiti, its  agriculture industry in shambles, needs to better feed itself.”  Unfortunately, the article did not talk at all about one of  the main causes of the shortages — the fact that the U.S. and other  international financial bodies destroyed Haitian rice farmers to create a major  market for the heavily subsidized rice from U.S. farmers.  This is not the only  cause of hunger in Haiti and other poor countries, but it is a major force.

Thirty years ago, Haiti raised nearly all the rice it needed.  What happened? 

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc”  Duvalier the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in  desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out).   But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff  protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some  industries to open up the country’s markets to competition from outside  countries.  The U.S. has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF.

Doctor Paul Farmer was in Haiti then and saw what happened.  “Within less than  two years, it became impossible for Haitian farmers to compete with what they  called ‘Miami rice.’  The whole local rice market in Haiti fell apart as  cheap, U.S. subsidized rice, some of it in the form of ‘food aid,’ flooded  the market. There was violence, ‘rice wars,’ and lives were lost.” (article)

The article goes into more detail about heavily subsidized U.S. rice undermining local production, and the hypocritical trade policies the U.S. continues to practice. A good documentary I saw about the harm trade liberalization can cause is called “Life and Debt”, that focuses on the situation in Jamaica.

If you are interested in helping the situation:

People  interested in donating to feed children in Haiti should go to  http://www.whatiffoundation.org/ 

People who want to help change U.S. policy on  agriculture to help combat world-wide hunger should go to:
http://www.oxfamamerica.org/ or http://www.bread.org/

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1 Comment »

  1. People interested in learning more about solutions to famine should check out this video on Meds and Food for Children. They offer a small solution to the famine in Haiti.

    Here it is:
    http://current.com/items/88911955_life_saving_peanuts

    Comment by Ada — April 22, 2008 @ 1:31 pm | Reply


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